Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In the local paper today, we learned that several cats in the area have been killed and mutilated. These pet killings are clearly not the act of predator animals but some fairly twisted predator human. A blade has been involved and the cats have been placed in their owners' yards. The only pets involved so far have been cats, but I couldn't help but shudder at the thought of anyone doing that to my beloved little girl. (I think she thinks Mommy's gone a little nuts tonight as I've been petting her and talking to her while getting a little teary-eyed.)

As a criminal defense attorney, whenever I hear about crimes in the area, I immediately think, "wonder who's gonna get that case?" Will it be me? A co-worker? So when I read about this today, it occurred to me that if the guy gets caught, it will likely come to my office. But I wouldn't get it because I only do the really, really bad cases with dead human bodies. My gut reaction is, "Thank goodness I wouldn't have to get that case!"

I think an animal killing case might just be the worst kind of case. I can handle your basic property crimes and batteries. Rapes don't bother me. I even enjoy child sex cases. (What can I say? They generally have the best legal issues.) Drug cases drive me nuts, but only because they bore me. Murder cases are just fine. But I don't really want to have to deal with dead Fido or Fluffy. I just don't want to get immersed in those facts or have to think too much about something like that happening. And I really don't want to have to see those photos.

If I got assigned an animal cruelty case, of course I would do the case. And I would represent the guy to the best of my abilities, with as much zeal as I put into any case. But I think it would be a hard case for me to handle on an emotional level. When I was safely in private somewhere that no one could see me, I would probably choke up thinking about the poor, innocent little furbaby who really, really didn't deserve its fate.

I think all attorneys have some kind of case that would be hardest for them to deal with. So other defense attorneys reading this, what kind of case would you least like to get stuck with?

What does it take for the public to sympathize with a drunk driver?

Turns out the general public, who usually has nothing but bad things to say about drunk drivers, can be sympathetic. When one drunk driver is killed by another.

Today, we learned of a plea agreement in a hit and run fatality accident. The accident occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, as the two drivers went home from a night on the town. The victim had been out celebrating his birthday. Before police or EMT could respond to the scene, the defendant fled. He was found the next day. As far as I know, there is no witness to the accident, so no one is really sure whether the defendant ran a stop sign or just edged too far out into the intersection (it's one of those where you really have to pull out to see if your turn is clear). And no one knows whether the victim was swerving or speeding.

The public around these parts is incensed that the "killer" will get probation and no manslaughter conviction. As for the victim, all they can talk about is how senseless and tragic and unfair it is that his life was cut short by some evil drunk driver. But no one wants to hear that the victim's blood alcohol content was double the legal limit. That's not relevant! Nor is it at all relevant to determine whether the victim contributed to the accident in any way. No, the "killer" was drunk and someone is dead and that is all we need to know.

Because apparently we're not supposed to be the least bit interested in deciding whether the impaired driving actually contributed to the death. All we care about is punishing drunk drivers as severely as we possibly can. In fact, we really should just lock them all up for life after the first time because they're just too dangerous to us all. But if we're so opposed to drunk driving, then shouldn't we also be pretty ticked at the victim for doing it? He took just as much of a risk as the defendant did. It could just as easily have been the victim who lived and the defendant who died. In that case, it seems to me the public around here would just say horrible things about the victim while expressing nothing but the deepest sympathy for the defendant. That irony is totally lost on most of the posters to the local newspaper's comment board. I just find the public's take on this case as proof that our tough stance on DUI has gone clear 'round the bend.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I finally got around to opening an IRA this January. Seemed like a good idea because one really shouldn't count on the state's retirement accounts. In hindsight, my timing sucked.

My account has lost approximately 20% of its value since the beginning of April.

Who wants to retire and travel the world, anyway?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I may have been premature

Apparently, there is some life in my Kansas City Chiefs! They sure looked like a team that could move the ball, either by running or by throwing. LJ, Tony G, and Dwayne Bowe looked like the weaponse we expected them to be. And my defense got some stops and lots of turnovers.

I still hate losing to the Raiders, but if I had to pick only one game that we just HAD to win, it would be the Broncos at Arrowhead. We just can't lose to those cheating bastards at home. Looks like Arrowhead still has some home crowd magic.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where have you gone, George Bailey?

So Washington Mutual failed because there was a run on the bank. Too many customers tried to pull their money out of the bank in the past 10 days. Haven't those people seen "It's a Wonderful Life?"

Well, no. Not like they used to, anyway. This leads me to identify a new culprit to share in the blame for our current economic mess: NBC!

Hear me out. Once upon a time, in my childhood, "It's a Wonderful Life" was ubiquitous during the Christmas season. You couldn't channel surf without finding that movie on at least one channel, and often it was on more like two or three channels at once. Channels like WGN and TBS played it almost daily, I swear.

But then NBC procured the exclusive rights to the movie and now it's only on once a year. I bet a lot of people don't even see it each year anymore. Maybe there are even kids and young adults who (gasp!) haven't ever seen it.

It's too bad because George Bailey has a valuable lesson for us all about what to do when financial panic sets in. We can't close our accounts and withdraw all our money. That's bad. George's Savings and Loan would have failed if he hadn't been able to convince so many of his loyal customers (friends and neighbors, really) to leave most of their money in their accounts. Because, of course, he didn't actually have all that money. It was invested in all the houses he'd helped his customers build. So for the communal good, he asked each customer to withdraw only as much cash as they absolutely needed to get them through the week. Fortunately, George and his winning personality kept the S&L afloat until the end of the day! Then he and Mary and the others merrily danced around the lobby before putting their single, solitary bill in the vault.

I think we've forgotten that lesson now that we don't get to see that movie 20 zillion times each year anymore.

So, NBC, I beg of you, save our economy! Free George Bailey so he can remind us of this valuable lesson (and so many others) by letting us watch that movie 17 times a day in December. I really think that oughta fix the problem.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

John McCain wants to suspend his presidential campaign, including delaying Friday's scheduled debate, so he can go deal with the economic crisis. He thinks he and Obama should put "patriotism" ahead of wanting to win an election. He thinks he can remove "politics" from the process if they both suspend their campaigns and return to Washington.

I call bullshit.

This is all politics. This is an attempt to make yourself look like a leader. To keep your name all over the news while taking the negative ads against you off the air (if Obama plays along). This is aimed at stopping your slide in the polls. And it doesn't hurt to buy a few more days of the media blackout around Palin.

Either that or McCain really thinks that a bailout package is more important than electing the next President. Seems like John McCain just doesn't grasp what's really going on November 4. He seems to think that the presidential campaign is just a side thing that is distracting him and Obama from doing their real jobs. It's just American Idol or Survivor: a game show that should take a back seat when something really important comes along. That's what he's conveying when he says he wants to suspend the campaign. We can just put this really important decision that will affect every aspect of this country for the next 4 years aside for a few days.

Well, here's the thing: The presidential campaign is a big deal. It's an important thing. It is your job right now. This isn't a popularity contest or a beauty pageant. This isn't just some contest that you'd really like to win. This is the choice of a new leader. You have asked us, the American public, to consider you for the job of Leader of the Free World. That's a big decision for us to make. It will affect far more than the banking industry. It has the potential to affect all of our national and international policies. We have to decide which of two people we think will offer the best ideas, will surround himself with the best advisers, and will lead our country in the direction we'd like to go. We'd probably also like to see which one of you can best juggle multiple things at once. There is nothing petty, trivial, or insignificant about it.

We are about 40 days away from election day. I don't think now is really the time for the candidates to shut themselves off from the voting public and from debates with each other. We can't put off the election.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Troy Davis Lives!

If the state of Georgia had its way, somebody would be pronouncing Troy Davis dead about the time I'm typing this. But fortunately, Georgia didn't get its way so Troy Davis is still alive, with at least one more chance to get a court to look at his request for a new trial. The US Supreme Court met late this afternoon and voted to grant a stay until they could vote on whether to grant his cert petition. That conference will be held on Monday. If the Court accepts cert, of course, the stay will remain in effect until they issue a decision on his case. If the Court denies cert, the stay will be lifted.

This is one of those convictions that just hasn't stood the test of time. Now, maybe you'll think that's not a very good reason for granting a new trial, and maybe if we value finality in cases, you're right. But I also don't buy "a jury found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt 20 years ago" as a justification for keeping his execution date without further review of his innocence claim. The fact is that 7 of the 9 key witnesses at his trial have recanted their testimony. Several new witnesses have come forward to say that a known, plausible suspect confessed to the shooting.

The bottom line is Georgia wants to kill this man. Based on the current state of the evidence, we should be glad that, for this week at least, the US Supreme Court isn't letting them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Paul House Update #2

I've previously written about Paul House's case here and here. Mr. House has finally been released on bond while awaiting retrial but as of now, the prosecutor is still planning on retrying the case.

There has now been yet another development. Results of another DNA test have come back, providing further doubt that the state has the right guy. This time, the state was able to do DNA testing on the hair that was found clutched in the victim's hand. It did not match House or the victim. The article I saw on it did not provide any other information on that sample, like whether it did match anyone else or whether it had even been tested against anyone else (like the victim's husband, who is the prime suspect in the eyes of the defense).

Previously, the prosecutor had said if the hair test came back not matching House, he would finally drop the case. Now that the result has come back, though, he's changing his tune a bit. Now the prosecutor is suggesting that the hair could still have been on House; it was just transferred onto him from someone else he was with that night. As this case continues to deteriorate, the prosecution just refuses to admit that it might have the wrong guy. Instead, they continue to change their story about how it all went down. Remember, the state had prosecuted House on the theory that he had raped and killed the victim, based on the sperm found on her nightgown. When that sperm turned out to match her husband, well they just changed their whole theory of why House killed her.

Keep in mind that House now suffers from multiple sclerosis and is in a wheelchair. He's served over 20 years in prison for a crime that has one other solid suspect (the husband), no DNA linking him to the crime, and some unknown person's hair clutched in the victim's hand. I think it's time for the prosecutor to stick to his word and let the nearly non-existent case against Paul House go. I understand that it's hard to admit being wrong. I don't like it either. No one does. But a prosecutor has a greater responsibility and just has to be able to put his/her own ego aside for the sake of doing the right thing. The right thing in this case really is to let Paul House be done with this charge.

Breach of Contract?

A woman was convicted today of murdering her husband. She hired two hitmen to shoot him. As she drove her husband to the agreed-upon location, the gunmen opened fired on the car. They succeeded in killing the husband, but they also shot her, paralyzing her from the waist down. I would guess the shooting her part was not part of the deal.

I'd say she should get her money back, but I don't think she'd get much help from the courts on that. They'd probably say that contract is void and unenforceable as a matter of public policy. So she's just out that money. And permanently disabled. And spending the rest of her life in prison. Do you think life with her husband is looking a little less intolerable right about now?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm callin' it

The Kansas City Chiefs are officially the worst team in the NFL. I think they'd have a tough time beating a couple of the top college teams, too. They're just bad, bad, bad. In all phases of the game. Our punter is our most consistent player, but he can't win the games all by himself.

But the real problem isn't any of the players at all: it's the management from the general manager on down. Of course we're not going to win games if our best quarterback (who's still not good enough to be an NFL starter, but at least is a career solid back-up) is inexplicably on the bench while some other clown throws 3 picks. And we're definitely not going to win games when Larry Johnson (our highly-paid, premiere running back) is consistently on the bench for 3rd downs! A team that has LJ, future hall-of-famer Tony Gonzalez, and Dwayne Bowe should not be throwing screen passes to Jamal Frickin' Charles on 3rd and 5. That is not our best option! The fact that our coaches and managers think it is tells me it is highly likely this team will go 0-16.

At this point, I think the only way we win a game is if the other team just doesn't show up.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I now remember why I don't have people over very often: Getting my couch presentable is a lot of work. My dog sheds. A lot. Her hair is red and my couch is dark blue. Not an attractive combination.
OJ Simpson's cell phone rang during trial yesterday. Who has OJ's cell phone number but doesn't know that he's indisposed during work days this week?

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I'm tired.

I'm having a dinner party tomorrow night and, in preparation, I've been doing all of the chores I've been putting off for months. I don't let people into my house often so I don't always feel much incentive to unpack the goblets my mom sent home with me or to put together a piece of storage furniture I bought. I don't have any friends that just pop over. I think having a cluttered house provides me cover. I can just say I don't want people to come over because my house is too messy and then I never have to find out if anyone would really come. I'm tired of being so closed off, and I'm tired of living in a house that I still haven't fully moved into yet. I've lived here over two years, so it's a little ridiculous how many boxes are still lying around. In the last week, I've done a lot of that moving in stuff that normal people would have done two years ago. So now I'm tired from all the work I've been doing this past week.

I'm tired of having too many cases and too few hours in the day. I don't feel like I can give any of my clients the level of attention they deserve. I can't take the time to read and analyze the case law the way I want to. I don't have time to organize my office, my files, and my piles of stuff the way I would like to. But surely I should find the time so I would spend less time hunting down that one transcript that I swear I just had. I definitely don't have time for the special projects I agree to take on. This all adds up to making me feel like an inadequate lawyer. I'm really tired of feeling that way.

I'm tired of disappointing my dog. She wants me to play with her more than I do, but I'm often just too tired from all the other stuff I have to do.

I'm tired of being angry. At politicians who run nasty, negative campaigns. At stupid talking heads like Bill O'Reilly and Nancy Grace who appeal to the basest among us. At the current administration for, well, everything. At the half of the American public who subjected us to this administration and who would extend our misery for another 4 years. At the people who criticize defense attorneys and don't respect the presumption of innocence and don't respect their own constitutional rights and think those of us that do are doing something wrong. At district courts who work with prosecutors to convict defendants rather than maintaining their role as neutral arbiters. At prosecutors who refuse to use their discretion not to prosecute some people. (Not every case that can be made should be.) At appellate courts who acknowledge errors during trials but still refuse to overturn convictions because they're satisfied that the defendant really is guilty. (Form really does matter!) Hell, I'm even angry at Carl Peterson and Clark Hunt! (GM and Owner of the once proud now pathetic Kansas City Chiefs. Seriously, how did they make the Chiefs the most awful, amateur, sucky team in the NFL?) My anger has been palpable lately. It's really quite exhausting. I can't maintain this level of anger. I need a break from it.

So I'm taking tomorrow off. I'm having friends over to my house for good food and good wine. And I won't even care that they might see some of my dirty clothes. (You have to go through the laundry room to get to the bathroom.) Then on Saturday, I'm going shopping. I'm going to buy myself new clothes in defiance of our tanking economy. Then on Sunday, I'm going to watch the Chiefs and not care how sucky they play. And I may stay in my pajamas all day long. So maybe by Monday, I'll be a little less tired. Or less angry. Or both.
Oversleeping is delightful. Well, as long as it doesn't make you late for any appointments or court appearance. (Oversleeping and missing a court appearance is the ultimate nightmare.)

But when you don't have anywhere to be but your office and you don't have any pressing due dates and you've been going hard for a while, there's just something delicious about (maybe not entirely accidentally) spending an extra hour (or hour and a half) in bed, with the sun shining just behind the curtains and your little dog obligingly curled up in the crook of your arm.

I suspect I'll get more work done today even for getting there an hour late than I would have had I shown up on time and un-rested.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pick your battles

I'm all for people standing up for things they believe in, the things they think are important. But sometimes I'm baffled by the things that some people think are important enough to take a stand on.

A couple in California has refused to file a marriage license the state will recognize. To comply with the California Supreme Court's ruling that the state must recognize same-sex marriages, the state marriage licenses have been modified to identify the two people as "Party A" and "Party B." This doesn't sit well with one couple in Sacramento. They insisted on modifying their marriage license to identify themselves as bride and groom. The state won't recognize modified licenses so they were given a deadline for submitting a new license, but they refused to do so. So to the state, they're not married. Which means the bride can't take her husband's name (her choice) without paying the legal fees any non-marriage name change costs. Nor can the bride be listed on her groom's insurance, which is a shame as she doesn't have insurance on her own.

I find this a fairly silly fight to take up. Honestly, I would never have thought to expect a marriage license to list the parties as "bride" and "groom." Male and female maybe. Or man and woman, but not bride and groom. I certainly wouldn't have let the fact that the state considered me "Party A" make me feel any less like a bride. I would think the bride feeling would come not from the one little piece of paperwork involved, but from the big white dress, the flowers, the cake, the coming together of all of my family and friends, the showers and parties and dinners, the taking of vows, the first dance, the cutting of the cake, the groom...

Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute says this "debunks the argument" that same-sex marriage has no impact on heterosexual marriage. Umm, no. I'm sorry, but this couple is choosing to let this minor thing affect them. And that's their problem that they need to deal with or get over.

Maybe if you don't feel "bride-y" enough, that's a sign that there's something missing in your relationship or that you've just lost total focus on what's important in this whole marriage thing. Like Carrie tells Charlotte at Charlotte's less-than-perfect wedding to Harry, by focusing on the little thing that's "wrong" in their eyes, they're missing the big picture. They've both found the one person they want to spend the rest of their lives with, they got to celebrate that fact with all of their friends and family, and the state of California will join in that celebration, just as they will for any two people in the state who are lucky enough to find each other.

So get over it already. Sign the damn license and get all the benefits the state gives you as wedding gifts. Enjoy each other everyday, enjoy the beauty of your new, shared life, and let yourselves feel how lucky you are to have found a mate. And if you need the occasional reminder, get a giant copy of one of your wedding photos and put labels on it. The guy in the spiffy tux is "Groom" and the one in the poufy white dress is "Bride." I'm pretty sure everybody but you two always knew that.

Less shooting, more thinking

My good friend (a co-worker) and I came up with this theory a few weeks ago. In general, the world needs less shooting and more thinking. I don't remember the exact situation that first prompted us to pronounce this philosophy, but it obviously involved a senseless shooting, and probably one that might have been avoided had the shooter done a little thinking. Well, most shootings might well be avoided with a little more thinking, but I recall this scenario being a particularly unnecessary shooting that even a little thought would have prevented. We've all had those moments where we read through a case and shake our heads at something it appears our client did. "Why?!?" we want to ask. "Just use your head!" Of course, they never did use their heads or they wouldn't be our clients.

Over the past few weeks, we've been seeing how many situations our little rule applies to. We've been finding ourselves repeating our new mantra time and time again. When in doubt, people need to think before they react.

So when I heard Sarah Palin say she didn't even blink before saying yes to John McCain's offer to be his running mate, this is what popped into my head. "Less acting, more thinking!" (Maybe for her, I should amend it to "Less shooting off your mouth, more blinking") She claims you need to be in the mindset where you don't blink because you have to stay focused on the mission. (Side note, what mission? I'm afraid...)

Making a decision without thinking it through is not a sign of strength. It's stupid. It's reckless. It's how many of my clients wound up where they are now. There's a big difference between acting quickly and acting rashly. Certainly, some situations require quick action, but in the vast majority of situations, there is some time for reflection before acting. A deep breath. At least a few blinks.

What's so wrong with taking a few seconds to think before answering a question? Or in taking an hour or two before deciding whether to take a major job offer? When did thinking things through become a bad thing? Being "decisive" doesn't do you any good if the decisions you make are terrible. Surely we've all learned this through the last 8 years. We all know our current president is very decisive. I think we all would have been better-served by a president who spent a little more time thinking through things, without a pre-determined agenda, before acting.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Grade inflation

Well, apparently the early word on Sarah Palin's initial interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson is that she gets high marks. Why? Not because she displayed any great depth and breadth of knowledge or thought on foreign policy issues. Not because she could speak off the cuff on a wide variety of topics. No, not at all. She gets high marks because she didn't make any major mistakes. Because she didn't flunk, she gets an A. And, hey, she said many times that she wants to get the terrorists, which is apparently all a lot of people care to hear.

Just like with George Bush debating in 2000. The bar was set so low for him because he was acknowledged to be such a poor speaker that when he actually managed to string together complete sentences for an hour and a half, he won. Nobody looked too deeply into the substance of his responses (or lack thereof). The actual answers didn't matter; the mere fact that he managed to answer was all that was necessary to declare him a winner.

I guess I'm just an old fogey 'cause I don't think that's the way we should grade the performances of the people who want our votes for president or vice president. I don't want a president I can relate to or I can knock back a beer with. I don't want an "average joe" president. I want the president to be smarter than me! I certainly don't feel qualified to address the wide range of issues that the president has to address and I'm pretty smart. I think the person who does have the ultimate decision-making responsibility ought to have more knowledge than I have, ought to have a broader scope of understanding than I have, and ought to be more thoughtful about the ramifications of all the possible decisions. And if the president sometimes has to talk down to me a little bit to help me understand, well that just reassures me that the person in that job is up to the task.

Sarah Palin gave what were obviously rehearsed, canned answers. When Gibson tried to push her away from those answers, she looked out of her element until she could find some way to get herself back on the path of those pat answers. She clearly had no idea what Gibson meant by the "Bush Doctrine" which demonstrates that she hasn't been paying much attention the last 6 years. I don't expect most voters to know what the Bush Doctrine is, but I do expect it of a person who wants to be president or vice president. That doctrine of preemptive war has been a guiding principle of the current administration. Most of this election is focusing on what new paths the two tickets propose for the nation, including in terms of our fundamental approach to foreign policy. In that sense, it's critical for the candidates to know what the current guiding principles are so they can address whether they would alter or abandon altogether those principles. Palin, though, demonstrated that she's pretty much clueless.

But as long as she didn't make an obvious mistake, well, she passed with flying colors! That just can't be good enough. Haven't we all learned that it wasn't good enough with George Bush? Talking tough is not foreign policy. Bombing everything in sight certainly isn't sound policy. We need to stop accepting this idea that not screwing up colossally is succeeding and we need to get over this idea that "anyone" can be president. The president shouldn't just be any person, it should be a great person, a superior person, with more knowledge, better understanding, and a greater intellectual curiosity than the vast majority of us. I know an awful lot of average joes; I don't personally know anyone I think has the capacity to be president.
Anyone who is pissed off that lipstick has been the lead story on the news for the last 24 hours needs to remember whose fault that is. It is not the fault of Barack Obama, who used a common expression to say John McCain's economic policies are no different than George Bush's. It most definitely is the fault of John McCain and his increasingly ridiculous, offensive campaign for not just making a stink about Obama's use of that expression, but released a freakin' ad about it! It is a waste of our time and an insult to our intelligence. But it will still work for McCain.

The sad, sad truth is that candidates like John McCain pull these silly stunts to distract the media and voters, even if only for 24 hours before everyone agrees it's nonsense, because these silly stunts work. Voters complain that they hate this kind of silly crap in campaigns, but they don't hold the responsible party accountable. They still freakin' vote for the guy.

So I guess if voters keep getting this kind of politics every campaign cycle, they have no one to blame but themselves. It would be really easy to put a stop to it: Stop voting for the candidates who stoop to this level!

UPDATE: John McCain just agreed with me. He said you the voters make the decision what kind of campaigns we want by choosing who to vote for. So if you don't like the campaign John McCain is running, he wants you to let him know by not voting for him!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I just can't take it when people who think they are experts in criminal law try to explain the law. I may have mentioned before my rather compulsive following of the message boards provided on all my area newspapers. Invariably, the articles about criminal cases get lots of comments, usually including at least a few that pose questions of why the case is charged the way it is or what the possible outcomes are. And invariably, some self-proclaimed expert claims to answer those questions.

Often, these know-it-alls get just enough right that it becomes really complicated to explain to the rest of the forum, not to mention the know-it-all, what is wrong with the answer. I probably shouldn't try. But I can't stop myself. I have this compulsive need to have all the legal questions answered correctly. I do my best to set everyone straight on all the minor details that most of the readers never cared about. It's kind of a sickness.

I'm fighting the urge to tackle a know-it-all post right now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What elephant in the courtroom?

The judge overseeing OJ Simpson's robbery and kidnapping trial in Nevada has vowed to find jurors who will not be influenced by memories of Simpson's 1995 murder trial. Good luck with that. Seriously, is there anyone in this country over the age of 18 who doesn't have an opinion about the OJ trial?

Somehow, though, the court system thinks we're going to find 12 people who will put aside their previously-held opinions and judge OJ's case SOLELY on the basis of the evidence they hear in court. Sure. These magical jurors will be able to remove from their minds everything they think they know about OJ's character and credibility. They'll all be able to forget about the white Bronco and the glove and the claim to pursue the "real killers" and the civil suit and the odd publicity stunts and the book. None of that will affect the way they view OJ or assess the credibility of those accusing OJ of committing these new crimes.

What a crock. This legal fiction that we pretend to accept every day is a crock. We can give limiting instructions and strike evidence and tell juries to disregard things all we want to, but it doesn't work. Juries can't help but use evidence for purposes beyond the limited purpose we pretend it came in for. Juries can't just forget something, especially something really prejudicial, once they hear it. And they can't just clear their minds of everything they heard about a case or a defendant before the trial began. To borrow a really tired cliche, there really are some bells that just can't be unrung. This new OJ trial just might highlight how unrealistic our legal fiction is.

'Cause there's just no way any voir dire, no matter how well conducted, can find 12 people in this country who don't have pre-conceived notions about OJ Simpson.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Facing your fear is not all it's cracked up to be

Anyone who questions the depth of my phobia should ask SO to describe this afternoon. For those of you who don't know me personally, I am deathly afraid of snakes. Can't watch t.v. shows or movies with them in it. Won't touch a magazine if it's got a picture of them in it. I don't even want to go to a zoo if they have those things. SO has sometimes chuckled at my fear and tried to talk me past it, but I think he gets it now.

It was not a pretty sight when I found a (completely harmless garter) snake in my yard this afternoon. He gallantly came rushing over to handle the situation, once he figured out what I was trying to tell him on the phone through the hysterical sobs. I'm sure he still thinks it's pretty ridiculous, but I don't think he will ever again try and tell me that a snake would be more afraid of me than I would be of it. He now knows first hand that ain't so.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Maybe I'm not such a bad lawyer after all

Court this week didn't go as poorly as I had convinced myself it would. It went about as well as I could have hoped. And I had a lovely moment where I got to correct the prosecutor, who claimed that I was misrepresenting the facts a tad to make my position stronger. I was not and I got to prove it. I love those moments.

I think I just needed to get past this case, with which I have lived for 5 years. Now that I have faced it in court, I think I might start to remember that I actually am a good lawyer, that I actually do know what I'm talking about, and that I really do have a pretty darn good record of getting good results for my clients.

And now that I've gotten past returning this case to court, I've started to look at my next cases and I'm starting to feel pretty good about them. I think I might be ready to go on a major streak of kicking butt for justice...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

After watching that speech, I'm left feeling... well, flat seems the best way to express it. Look, there was never any real possibility that I would have voted for John McCain. If he was really the best of the named candidates on the ballot, I would write in my mother. (I have written her in for Senate in the past.)

But after watching that speech, I really don't understand why anyone would vote for this man. It's not that he was infuriating or said really awful, unexpected things. It was just so blah. So uninspiring. Even uninteresting.

I'm befuddled.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Troy Davis, who I wrote about here, has a September 23 date with the executioner. Damn. I don't like anyone to get execution dates, but this case really bugs me. The fact pattern is pretty close to an old case of mine that still rankles.

The bottom line is if we're still this unsure about his actual guilt as the shooter this many years after his trial, maybe we shouldn't be executing him. You know, just in case.


I wish I had the optimism of my dog. You've seen her pictures. She's a sweet, feisty red-headed cocker spaniel who thinks she's the fiercest thing around (she's not!). And she's very, very optimistic.

Every morning, she wakes up just thrilled to be alive. She jumps on me, optimistically believing she can nudge me out of bed, even though I'm the biggest morning grump around. Every morning, she believes this will be the morning I will go straight into playing fetch with the squeaky ball, or a long walk, or some other day-long activity centered entirely around her.

Every evening when I eat dinner, she sits in rapt attention, optimistically believing this will be the evening that I give her food from my plate. I never do, but she sits as still as she can and acts like the best little dog she can because she always has hope.

Now maybe this isn't unfailing optimism so much as a lack of memory. I believe she knows certain routines, though, so I believe it is optimism. Either way, it's an attitude I wish I could capture for myself to take into court on each and every case.

I wish I could forget about all the times the court or a prosecutor has disappointed me by not doing what I thought was really the right thing. I wish I could forget about all those little rulings that went against me, and all those times a court poo-poo'ed my impassioned pleas for a fairer trial, and all those times a court just overlooked error because the result was good enough. It would be so nice to go into court each time with a totally fresh outlook, unburdened by the knowledge of all the ways the court could come up with to screw my client. How wonderful it would be to go into court every day optimistically believing this would be the day that I would prevail.

But I'm just not that optimistic. And I have a very long memory.
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